Farah Mendlesohn farah.sf at gmail.com
Tue May 15 13:48:50 EDT 2007

The mother in Conrad's Fate is a feminist because she's a feminist, but it
turns out that she is a neglectful mother because she is under a spell. When
the spell is broken, she is still a feminist but she stops neglecting her

Mind you, there are lots of grounds to criticise Diana's treatments of
mothers. Generally: girl children good, grannies good. Mothers, not so good.


On 15/05/07, Hallie O'Donovan <hallieod at indigo.ie> wrote:
> Farah:
> >
> >Stereotypes are something else: they are locked in characteristics which
> >"automatically" go with certain attributes. So the fat kid will be greedy
> >and a bit dumb; the red headed kid will have a hot temper; the black kid
> >will be Cool and sporty (don't you just *love* Pratchet''s Yo-less?). In
> >fantasy they lead to trite ideas that Jews/Ferengi are moneylenders who'd
> >sell their grandma for a profit, That immigrants/gnomes infesting your
> >street/garden can be evicted in interesting and creative ways.
> >
> >Avatars are powerful tools for children.  They damn well don't need to be
> >taught stereotypes unless you are actively planning to encourage
> playground
> >bullying and life-long prejudice.
> This is very interesting, and it got me thinking about when a
> stereotype becomes a stereotype and not just a sort of one-off thing.
> Rowling and the fat = "nasty in a variety of ways" is pretty clearly
> in the first category (though where were you all when I seemed to be
> the only person in the universe complaining about it??).  This
> particular stereotype seems to be one about which people are aware
> enough these days that you'd expect not to get cheerful use of it,
> unquestioned, and yet there are still far too many examples of it
> floating around.  Case in point (those who read my LJ can look away
> now, for fear of death-by-tedium) is Sally Gardner's *I, Coriander*:
> it got love, brilliant reviews a major award and I have seen *one*
> other person mentioning the fact that ugliness, specifically combined
> with fatness in female characters, inevitably equates with evil in
> it.  One. (That was a comment in response to Farah's unfavourable
> review).
> However, it seems a bit OTT to think that one could never write a
> character who happened to be fat and who was lazy, greedy or a bully
> or whatever without being accused of pandering to stereotypes.
> (Might be going in the opposite cause and effect direction, of
> course, in a realistic treatment.)  My own lack of self-restraint
> doesn't show with respect to food, but it's not because I'm admirably
> restrained at all.  (Ask Charlie how hard I hyper-ventilated last
> weekend when he took me to the *biggest* yarn shop in the UK!  And
> how long he sat on the pink, pink sofa while I wandered around
> fondling yarn...  Nor do we need to mention my glorious TBR pile and
> my continued acquisition of more books.)  A 'normal' body weight
> character without a shred of self-restraint would be fine, and even
> funny or sympathetic if it was a lack of self-restraint you shared
> with the character, but it becomes offensive if that's a fat person
> without the same.   What's clear when there is a large weight of
> stereotype built up in the past (no pun intended) might be less so if
> there's less.
> Can you have a not-very-frequently-used but still stereotypical
> stereotype? Looking at a specific of relevance here - I found the
> feminist, neglectful mother in *Conrad's Fate* quite offensive.  But
> is this warranted?  Does it make a difference that in over 40 books,
> she's the only self-proclaimed feminist character?  I know it doesn't
> make any difference that she was based on a real person.  But for all
> the many, many times I've heard people dismiss feminists as merely
> men-haters (sometimes bitter because unattractive ones at that), I
> haven't come across that many saying that all feminists are rotten
> mothers.  Only other one that comes to mind immediately is Mrs Banks
> in the film version of Mary Poppins, and she's sweet and silly, which
> isn't quite the same. Yet it still seems a very cheap use of
> something *like* a stereotype.
> Just pausing for a moment of extreme admiration for John Green's *An
> Abundance of Katherines* and the brilliant fat, Muslim hero's best
> friend character.  (OT but not on the question of stereotypes!)
> Hallie
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One day I want time to be bored.

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